Saturday, October 06, 2007

Critical Thought

I like Kevin Lowe. I liked him as a player. I give him credit for putting together a competitive team in the years before the lockout. I give him lots of credit for the run in 2005/2006.
Since June 19th of 2006 he has been on a monumental losing streak. And this morning it looks like he is going to get a contract extension.
Not sure how that works. The spin machine has been working overtime lately. The kids (and yes I agree they are lovely) are being called the Boys on the School Bus because, you know, its going to be the 80s all over again. Based on the preseason and one game. The return for Pronger now includes Cogliano, Gilbert, Hemsky, a sub 6 % unemployment rate, Jennifer Heil and the existence of bacon. Ryan Smyth, like all Oilers shipped out of town, was a heartless mercenary. And a lousy player. And so on.
So let's review the past eighteen months.
Lowe trades Pronger for Lupul, Smid and three picks. Lupul barely lasted a year. Smid is in the minors. Saying that Pitkanen was actually part of that trade now because Lupul was part of a trade for him is a mug's game. In any case you can go back for years and point to who was traded for who, like a type of family tree. Comrie begat Woyitka and Hamrlik begat Brewer and they begat Pronger and so on and so on until one can say that the original guy was a third round pick and a third round pick for so and so is a great deal, who wouldn't make that deal? The fact is that while we can all agree that Lowe may have asked for Bouwmeester and Horton, they likely weren't on the table. We don't know who was but when you are trading one of the best defenceman in the league then you had better make sure that the return is a sure thing. Having said that, the Pronger deal is a terrible trade.
The botched Smyth negotiation. If you want to see why Smyth was not considered an elite player by Lowe look at the scoring statistics for the playoffs in '06. Smyth was behind Pronger, Horcoff, Hemsky and Pisani, a couple of points up on Spacek and Samsonov. When they lost G7 the writing was on the wall for Smyth. Lowe played with enough guys who put up the big playoff numbers that I think he looked at Smyth and the results of that run and said "Not for me." Except that five months after moving Smyth (good return for twenty games of Smyth, btw) he was publically bemoaning his mistake in not signing him. Um, OK. Oops. Funny how all of those Lowe supporters and Smyth bashers can't put those two facts together. Smyth is a jerk and it was a good thing Lowe didn't give him that money but now Lowe says he should have given him the contract. Right. And how does Lowe come out of that statement looking good?
The reasons for not signing Smyth - not an elite player, older guy - were thrown out the window when Lowe threw all of that money at an over 30 player with a history of serious injuries and one career season, a season in which he also posted terrible defensive numbers while playing against second tier opposition.
Add to that last season's disaster when everyone knew from July on that this team needed at least one veteran Dman, maybe two, to be a playoff team. Instead the team was left to founder as Laddy Smid was sold as a top four Dman. An entire year was wasted.
I like Kevin Lowe. I think he has drafted well. Not great but pretty well. I think his track record before the recent fiascos is decent. I also believe that giving him a contract extension makes no sense. Riversq posted over at IOF the other day that the idea of waiting to see how this year plays out before deciding on Lowe drives him crazy. Apparently EIG decided not even to wait on that. Souray could go minus forty. Penner could score five goals. The kids who have everyone excited right now could all be buried in the minors by November. Doesn't matter. Based on '06, I guess, Lowe has gotten his reward.
Hey I'm a positive guy. I like the kids and I have high hopes for this year and the years to come. But I also want the Oilers to win. I wanted them to make the playoffs last year and their GM put them into a position to fail, not succeed. That does not cut it. I want them to win three years from now, five years from now, seven years from now. I want them to be the Detroit Red Wings. Trading one of the best players in the league for a poor return does not make that more likely. That is not good enough. I want them to use their resources wisely, signing guys like Stoll to longterm deals, rather then throwing tons of money at aging players. I was actually OK with the Smyth deal because that was what I thought it was about, using that money to sign guys like Stoll. I got suckered in. Turns out they used that money to sign a guy who is nowhere close to Smyth quality.
I would love for Kevin Lowe to succeed. I want him to succeed. After the Vanek deal thorn in the side commenter mclea stated that he was laughing because he wanted to see me, among others, eat my words about Lowe. I replied that nothing would make me happier then to do that because that would mean that the Oilers have succeeded.
Problem is that with him at the helm I think that their chances of doing just that are not that good. I hope I'm wrong. I want to be wrong because I am a fan of the club although in some minds criticizing any move the club makes means you are less of a fan. This whole idea of My Oilers, Right or Wrong, is just plain foolish and drives me crazy. Equating present management with the club is like equating the government with the countryand saying that because one is critical of the club's direction makes you less of a fan is as blind and stupid as saying that someone who criticizes George Bush and Dick Cheney is less of an American, to use an example from south of the border.
I want the Oilers to win a Stanley Cup. I could care less if the GM is Kevin Lowe, Glen Sather, Craig MacTavish, Andy Grabia or Natalie Portman. Just frigging win it. The last eighteen months make me think that Lowe is not the man for the job. I will gladly eat my words if I am wrong but I think don't think I am.


sacamano said...

saying that because one is critical of the club's direction makes you less of a fan is as blind and stupid as saying that someone who criticizes George Bush and Dick Cheney is less of an American,

Dude, that is pre 02-27 thinking. Now is not the time to question -- now is the time to support our boys. If you're not with the Oilers you're a Flames fan. Do you want the Flames to win? Can't you see that when you media types question our boys it deflates their morale? Can't you see how it gives the Flames a boost? Why not just hand them the keys to the Hockey Hall of Fame so that they can go engrave their names on the cup right now.

therealdeal said...

I would still prefer Natalie Portman as the GM, especially if we're going to be losing anyway...

Lowetide said...

BDHS: Exactly right. Oiler fans are going to split over this imo, because it really is about things other than being competitive. We are less than a year away imo from another Sather-like "Oiler fans should just be happy they have a team" rant.

Strange days indeed.

rickibear said...

"Souray could go minus forty. Penner could score five goals. The kids who have everyone excited right now could all be buried in the minors by November."

We could lose our 4 puck moving Dmen and end up with the d we had the last 3 months of the season.

Pat said...


excellent, excellent post. We've heard a lot of it before, from all sorts of sources, but given Lowe's new contract extension, it's worth revisiting. I particularly like how you clarify that criticism of management does not preclude us from cheering for the team in good faith.

One problem that I think about more and more is that old 80's heroic mystique that seems to enshroud Lowe (and to a lesser extent MacT). The fans more or less buy it, and the EIG certainly buy it. It's got a quasi-religious tenor to it, and I don't think there's any denying that it's there. I mean, can you imagine a non-80s alumni getting the kind of leeway that Lowe gets from us (fans), and perhaps more importantly, the EIG?

As long as there's asses in the seats, I guess, the EIG stays happy. Lowe's really fortuntate. With the present CAN dollar and Alberta economy, along with a hockey-mad city, his management actions - good or bad - have thus far had a negligible causal connection to the EIG's bottom line (though I sometimes wonder if the EIG realizes that).

It's a funny thing, this season's lineup - up front, the kids look really promising. Yet ironically, if Lowe had succeeded in landing a Nylander or Karyia (who we know he also was coveting), Gagner likely never would have gotten a contract, and Cogliano may have been on the fringe. I mean, it's still early to say how those guys will pan out, but personally, I'm happy to give them a chance to develop. So Lowe can have his cake and eat it too: despite his best efforts ("it's not for a lack of trying"), we fail to get Nylander et. al. - yet now that the kids are showing promise, he can take credit for that too. "Holy Mackerel!"

grease trap said...

I agree, let's recruit Portman for GM.

Then I will marry her.

Chris said...

I'd care more if Natalie Portman was GM.

Anonymous said...

I'm a born again Oilers fan since the great run (actually, stopped watching all hockey in the early- mid 90's), so I've trying to catch up.
So not just you but a few other main blogs say Lowe is not the man for the job. I'm just wondering who you think that man might be? Who would you consider a good GM? And further, a good GM fit for this club? Like I said, I've seen this on other blogs but so far you/they don't mention any other possible candidates. Or perhaps I missed them. Not trying to be an *ss, just wondering. Thanks.

Black Dog said...

anon - that's absolutely a fair question and you're right - there haven't been a lot of solutions put out there

Who would I consider a good GM? Doug Wilson. Dean Lombardi. Brian Burke. Bob Gainey. Ken Holland. Bryan Murray. Lou Lamorello. Jim Rutherford. Darcy Regier. Armstrong (is that the guy in Dallas?)

All of these guys, for various reasons, I would put near the top of my list. Some have proven it with one franchise, some with two, that they can put together competitive teams year after year. I would say that all have had success in building organizations through drafting and by plucking other teams' kids from them (like Lowe picked Gilbert or Torres for example.). They all make mistakes but rarely are they fatal mistakes.

I think Lowe has done a good job (and perhaps this year may be a point where he jumps a level there) in terms of drafting well. I think that when he was handcuffed by EIG financially he generally moved guys at the right time and got good players in return. Also he rarely makes a mistake when it comes to shipping out kids - the guys he gives up usually don't suddenly blossom - and veterans - the tough decisions usually are the right ones - see Niinimaa and likely Smith.

He really seems to struggle when he HAS to make a move - ie/ Weight, Comrie and Pronger - the return never seems to be worth a damn. And he has seemed to lack a plan since the Pronger trade. If its a rebuild that's fine but then why sign a guy like Souray? The last eighteen months he has really seemed to flounder. Not signing Smyth because he is an aging non elite guy and then signing Souray who is also older and even further down the list in terms of talent. And then admitting that he blew the whole Smyth negotiation. Yipes!

Now - a good fit for this club? Well, that's a damn good question and maybe you have caught me out. The guys I mentioned aren't going anywhere and with a young guy you don't know if you're going get Shero (who looks good) or Chiarelli (not so much) or Ferguson (jury is out but I think he would be a lot better if he didn't have to deal with MLSE). A lot of people liked Howson but who knows if he will pan out.

So, I guess you have caught me out. :) All kidding aside though I am sure there are a lot of guys out there in the asst GM ranks who are going to make the jump soon and those are the guys most teams look for unless you want to exhume John Muckler. Most of these guys are faceless. Some will be great, some not so much. I would hope that they would find a guy who is not an ex-Oiler and do their due diligence and make the hire.
My feeling is that Lowe has been a disaster since June 19, 2006. Because I can't name a replacement doesn't make him less of a disaster - it just means I have no idea who a lot of these guys are.

Now some would say better the devil you know ...

I wish Lowe all the success in the world - I really do. If this team made the playoffs I'd be happier then most and more then happy to eat crow. I think a lot of people don't realize that - the guys howling for Lowe's head just want the team to win and the last fourteen months he just seems to not be helping them do that so much.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I appreciate your response. And humour "..exhume John Muckler.."
Like I said, I'm still catching up, learning and slowly forming my own opinions. And I will continue to visit your site.
Keep up the good work!